Part XI: Gods and Monsters

In the clearing stands a lone tree. Limbs reaching upwards to the heavens, roots burrowing deep within the earth. Sunlight and water are its only nourishment, but it grows tall and strong withstanding winds that topple its lessers. Animals gather ’round it for shade and fruit. Insects and birds live among its leaves producing cacophonies of delight. It stands defiant, a testimony to life and all things natural. the embodiment of health, growth and purpose. For thousands of years, the elves gather here and worship bringing peace and tranquility to the surrounding lands. But now, a usurper has come and he brings an artifact most terrible…now comes Balar!

To this place, arrive Zyf’s Talons, led by the intrepid Zyf, devoted cleric of Myn, traveling goddess of the Southern Realms. Among his troupe is Quintain, an elf, in search of the legacy owed him by a wizard, a prince, a father. A father that sought to keep his kin and kindred safe from the terrors of war by harnessing the power of Balar’s fearsome eye and bending it to his will. Balar has other plans though and only the heroic actions of Zyf, cleric unequaled, will swing the balance.

Fog clung to the soft ground inside the giant tree. Hundreds of crows sat on glowing sconces watching the party. The bodies of fallen elves littered the ground. On a stone dais sat an ancient elf. Even by elven standards, this was an elder of that long-lived race. Hair hung in gossamer wisps from the mottled brow and the eyes had sunk deep into the delicate skull, but the fierce light of insanity burned in those rheumy orbs as he stared into the huge gem clutched in his withered hand.

“I…I’m sorry,” he began. “I’m sorry…it has…come to this.”

Around the withered form, illusions and phantasms circled, here was an elven woman being accosted by a hale and hearty elf, there was a much younger Quintain being left behind, and there, a long-ago version of the decrepit form on the throne finding a pulsing gem.

“Go to him, lad,” said Zyf, philosopher and negotiator, to Quintain, “go and tell him you forgive him. Break his spell. He dwells in his own nightmares now. You can bring him out. Be kind, be just, be his son again.”

Quintain approached the lich-like form slowly. “Father? It is I, Quintain. What have you done here?”

The eyes of the elder did not rise from the stone, but it could be seen by those in attendance that the words of the younger elf had made an impression.

“Go, my son, hurry ’ere I lose all control. I fear I cannot control the beast within.”

“Drop the stone, father, and come out with me.”

“Nay, ’tis my duty to protect my family and my people from the ter…ter…TERROR!”

The elder screamed and suddenly stood. A mighty dome of force surrounded the pair and the rest of the party was pushed aside so the two could discuss family issues in private.

Zyf, master strategist and noted essayist, leapt to his feet and quickly realized that the contest within the dome was really only happening in the minds of the two participants. The true danger lurked without! The murder of crows darkened the air and all landed on a near-by corpse. The body twisted and writhed as the crows infused it with some horrible essence. Rising from the ground, huge black wings sprouted out of its back and its mouth was filled with razor sharp metal teeth!

YOU SHALL NOT STOP MY WAR! ARISE MY MINIONS AND SLAY THESE INTERLOPERS!” And, the bodies of the fallen elves began to shuffle to their feet.

“Oh, crikey!” whimpered Flann, “we’ve gone and irritated the Morrigan!” ((Mage Armor))

“Wha’ di’ phook iz a Mar’gan?” asked Dannis. “Can Frik eet it?” Frik, for his part, gnawed on the bones of the undead he had just destroyed, his great dire tail happily thumping the dirt.

“Fuck it! I’m shooting the bitch!” yelled Emma and promptly did.

“This green wall is keeping me out…or, is it keeping them in?” mused Chun Yao.

Zyf turned to the nearest undead and blasted them with Myn’s holy light causing them to disintegrate into piles of smoldering ash! “Ha, HA!” he laughed in the face of adversity.

The Morrigan flew toward the majority of the party and screamed unholy obscenities, coating them with slime which began to spawn worms that ate into their flesh.

“Ouch, shite!” mewled Flann, “thems was me best robes!” ((Shield))

“Frik ATTACK!” commanded Dannis and began summoning a helper for his might wolf-hound.

“Fuck it! I’m shooting her again!” said Emma and promptly did.

“This dome is circular, much like the very world we live upon,” said Chun Yao, “the shape of it appeals to my Lawful nature. It is well-crafted and we should admire its form! I think I’ll contemplate that for a bit.”

Zyf ran to the other side of the room brandishing Myn’s holy symbol eradicating the rest of the undead minions. “Is that ALL you’ve got, bimbo?” the amazing cleric asked sarcastically.

The Morrigan turned on Frik and ripped great gobs of fur and flesh from the mangy beast!

“Jeez Louise! Did yas see that bit there?” said Flann pointing out the bloody obvious. ((Stone Skin))

GRR!” said the newly summoned grizzly bear as it pawed at the Morrigan, catching her in its claws. “Dere! Dat oughtta hold yas fer a bit,” mumbled Dannis as he turned into a Polar Bear. Frik licked his wounds.

“Fuck it! That bitch is MINE!” said Emma shooting two more arrows.

“My navel is also circular,” reasoned Chun Yao, “therefore I must be INSIDE the dome with Quintain!”

Zyf flew to the great wolf and cast major healing awesomeness on it. “I’m coming for you next, wench!” he said to the Morrigan.

Sorely afraid and quivering in her loins, the Morrigan teleported away from the party, and mostly Zyf. “Now now, Zyf,” said the Morrigan, “I wasn’t aware that you were leading this brigade. I’ll just leave of my own accord and we’ll call it square, okay?? Huh…okay? Right?”

“Don’t trust her Zyf!” stammered Flann, “the Morrigan are completely untrustworthy!” ((Detect Magic))

“Grr,” said the grizzly. “Grr-Grr’Gr Grr-Grrrrr Grrrrr,” said Polar Bear-Dannis. And they began wrestling and riding unicycles around the dome. Frik chased his tail for a bit.

“Sonofabitch!” said Emma loosing two arrows into nearby sconces as her anger abated. “She better drop some phat lewts!”

“Oh look! Everyone came with me into the dome! But now there is another dome inside this dome! My reasoning is completely correct and not at all circular…LIKE THE DOME! Ooo-ahhh! I best mediate some more!” concluded Chun Yao.

“You may go, Morrigan,” said Zyf. “Go and do not dawdle. But remember you this, and tell your cronies and lackey as well: I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build, I’ll be there, too. Where there is injustice in the world, I’ll be there.”

The Morrigan shrieked then, one final time and departed, returning to its home plane or nearest parallel dimension. At that moment, the great dome cracked and fell open revealing Quintain and his father playing catch with the huge gem.

“Gee pa,” said Quintain giggling, “thanks for teaching me the slider!”